what to do when job outgrows employee

What To Do When the Job Outgrows Your Employee

Your team needs your leadership during rapid growth.

Recently, we received a great question from a manager who had taken part in a Winning Well Leadership Intensive. Her question is one you’ll face in your career – especially if you work in a fast-growing company:  What do you do when the job outgrows the employee?

Here is her question with some more detail:

I have a team member who is very experienced and does their job well. But the job is evolving—going from a highly technical, responsive role, to a more proactive, management role. I don’t think they will be able to grow into the new job requirements. The thing is, they’re a valuable member of our team, and there’s lots of other work to do on our team. It will be difficult to transition them without making them feel like they’re getting demoted (which they’re not).

Steps to Take When the Job Outgrows the Employee

  1.  Start with Confident Humility

To help navigate your own emotions, remember that when the job outgrows a person, you aren’t “doing this” to your employee. Life has happened and circumstances have changed. You are trying to help your employee and the team navigate the change in a way that helps everyone to succeed. They need you to lead.

  1. Share That You Care

Be sure your team member knows you care about them, their career, and that you want them to be successful now and in the future. It’s so important that they know you really value them (which you do, or you wouldn’t be thinking through this so carefully).

  1. Clarify What Success Looks Like

Change often happens incrementally and it’s hard to see from moment to moment. It’s important that you ditch the diaper drama and have an honest discussion about how things are changing and why.  Write a new job description based on the evolved role. Be clear and specific that the “old” role will no longer exist and about what the “new” position will require. Be up front that the evolved position requires different competencies and behaviors from the previous role. (Talking about them in these terms of “new” vs “old” helps to clarify the options going forward.)

  1. Invite Their Perspective

Don’t assume the other person’s response. They may surprise you. Someone who looks like they could succeed in the new role may not want to go there. An employee who you suspect can’t do the new role may be interested and self-aware enough to acknowledge where they need to grow.

If they are interested in the evolved role and you have concerns about their ability to succeed, share them. Do you have specific observations you’ve noticed (and have you spoken with them about it before)? Reinforce what it will take to succeed and ask if that’s what they want to do.

  1. Prepare a Plan

Recognize that the growth and change are happening to your employee, to you, and to the rest of the team. How will you help the employee transition—either to the new role or a different one?

The employee may want to try the new role. If so, create a clear plan for the skills they need to master and the behaviors they need to show. Be specific about what support they can and cannot expect along with the time frame.

If they aren’t interested, how will you help them move to a role that is better suited for them? If they need to move to a different role, they’ll likely have concerns about their future if it feels like moving backward. Consider asking about areas where they want to develop and help build a plan for their continued growth. Is there any ability to put some challenging work into the new gig that really leverages their strengths?

Whatever plan you create, be sure to implement it and follow through. Finishing strong is vital to help your employee feel confident.

Your Turn

Growth can challenge leaders and their teams; it gives you an excellent opportunity to help your team members continue to grow and expand your own capacity. When the job outgrows the employee, stay grounded in your concern for doing what’s important for the team AND your concern for the employee. Let both shine through and you’ll do well.

Leave us a comment and share your best strategy for helping an employee when the job outgrows their current responsibilities.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

If you Google you, do you like who shows up?

Do you feel like you’ve got a powerful message to share, but without the right positioning, find yourself talking to the metaphorical mute button?

Are you having trouble outgrowing an outdated reputation at work?

Or maybe you’re just looking to get a better seat at the table.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Winning Well Brand

If your brand could use a power boost, take a step back and give your brand a Winning Well refresh using these nine approaches.


1- Rock your Role
If you’re not knocking your current job out of the park, start there–even if you’re looking for something else. There’s nothing better you can do to enhance your brand than having a long track record of success. 

2- Mind the MIT (Most Important Thing)
Pick something extraordinary to accomplish and prioritize getting it right. If there are 27 metrics on your balanced scorecard, trust me, they are not all created equal. Pick one or two that matter most and be known as the guy or gal that cracked the code. 

3- Focus on the Game (Not the Score)
Don’t go around talking about metrics and stack ranks (even if you’re on top). Identify the key behaviors that will change the game, and focus yourself and your team on executing on those consistently. You build a brand by playing the game, not by measurement and commentary. 


4- People before Projects
Of course projects are important (see above) but results without relationships leave people burned out, frustrated, and unlikely to give you their best effort. Take the time to establish genuine connection with the people you work with. Yes, you have time, because it will save you time downstream, not to mention building a reputation that will attract “A players” to want to work with you the next time, which of course, makes everything easier.

5- Prioritize Peers
Most managers understand the importance of supporting their team and making their boss look good. But to build a brand that lasts– have your peers backs (see 8 reasons your peers rate you low on your 360 feedback assessment) and go out of your way to make their lives easier. Trust me. I wish I learned this one sooner. Your boss may want you at the top of the stack rank, but your bosses boss wants a team of people working together to accomplish the bigger picture. A high tide rises all boats. Do what you can to be helpful.


6- Take a Stand
When I first started writing my blog, the folks at Verizon got a little twitchy. And, I had no intention of leaving my day job at that point. I just wanted to help spread the word that you can get results without losing your soul, and yes, you can blend the bottom line with the human spirit. I loved my work at Verizon (and received the highest performance reviews during this time) AND I had something larger to say. I thank God every day that I had the courage to speak up and was open to next steps.

7. Expand your Expertise 
If you want to build your brand, get very, very good at something important. When everyone tells you, “You’re the best!”–that’s a great sign… keep learning and work harder. AND work on broadening your knowledge. I started at becoming the best HR expect I could be… and then made a career out of leading teams where I was not the expert in the field. I learned so much. It pays to be a “utility player” with deep knowledge in at least one arena.


8- Channel Challengers
One of the best ways to improve your brand is to know what people are saying behind your back. Ask for feedback. Say thank you. Work to improve. If you want to be the best possible version of you, surround yourself with people you respect who will tell you the truth.

9- Own the Ugly
Here’s a secret. When you screw up… your team already knows. If you want to foster respect and build a trusted Winning Well brand, admit your mistakes and make it right.

There are no shortcuts to a Winning Well brand. It’s showing up consistently day after day oriented in confident humility with a laser focus on results AND relationships.

Who’s Influencing Your Leadership?

Pleased to welcome this guest post from Bruce Harpham.

In the world of music, composers and performers are influenced by each other every day. I was recently reminded of this tendency when I enjoyed a performance by pianist Richard Rubin. He showed how Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Broadway composer behind The Phantom of the Opera and other works, liberally borrowed from musical works. In some cases, it is clear who influenced Weber’s work.

Scientists are also heavily influenced by their peers. Ground-breaking scientist Isaac Newton observed, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That is a powerful idea for all leaders to consider. However independent minded you are, others influence your leadership approach.

Choose your leadership influences carefully.

The Rule of Five: Understanding Your Influences

If you take pride in your independence, this section may be hard. As a leader, you are constantly influenced by those you lead, fellow executives and others. Influences are inescapable.

In our complex world, it is challenging to imagine all the influences that impact you. The country you live in, your education, your age, and your leisure pursuits are some of the influences that leave lasting traces.

The most important influence on your leadership is the people all around you. Answering the question “Which five people do I spend the most time with?” is the easiest way to understand your influences. Don’t worry if you don’t like the answer! That discontent gives you the fuel to make a change.

Tip: Start small by changing your focus. Use the final section of this article to find one new person to provide positive leadership influence.

Growth Is Not Automatic: Harness Helpful Influences To Grow

John C. Maxwell’s excellent book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth emphasizes the importance of growth. Maxwell points out that growth happens naturally in childhood. In adulthood, growth is not automatic (except around the waistline!)

You may grow occasionally when a new obstacle comes your way. Accidental growth is not reliable. Would you buy a car that only worked “on occasion?” Not if you valued your time. In order to grow your skills to reach new goals, you must grow intentionally.

With the right influences, greater growth will come fast and furious. Mentors, coaches, sponsors and others can bring new perspectives, questions and resources.

With the wrong influences, your leadership will never grow. Even worse, the constant doubts and negativity will undermine whatever leadership qualities you have.

Accessing New Influences

By this point, you’re convinced about the importance of influence. Even more, you understand that the right influence can push you toward your goals. Read on for ideas to cultivate positive influences.

Books (Hint: Go Beyond The Business Section!)

For years, I have accessed new influences, ideas and opportunities through books. I often find myself browsing through the business section at my bookstore. For growing leaders, that is only the beginning. I also strongly encourage you to read widely – consider Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for Moral Biographies for example.

Here are two book suggestions to bring new influences into your leadership thinking.

  • Tribes by Seth Godin

Godin is best known for his expertise in marketing and the Internet. Tribes is Godin’s contribution to leadership. He points out that today’s tool makes it easier to build a tribe of followers behind your ideas. The only barrier is you. Do you have the skills and commitment to lead?

  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

Known to many for his studies in electricity, Franklin has much to teach us. Franklin regularly changed his occupation: from entrepreneur publisher, to diplomat and American statesman. For those interested in personal development, I also encourage you to read Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography – Franklin’s desire to better himself through self-education, study and moral discipline is well worth studying.

Consulting and Coaching

Once upon a time, accessing consulting was out of reach for most people. That is starting to change. Today, you can hire coaches and consultants for reasonable rates. For less than $500 using a website like Clarity FM, you can obtain helpful, customized recommendations to help you reach your goals.
For the best results, prepare and send out a written agenda for your first meeting. Bring several written questions that you can reference. Now is not the time for an unfocused conversation. For the best results, I recommend bringing a paper notebook (I prefer Moleskine notebooks for their durability and easy-to-handle size) and pen rather than an electronic device.

Follow these seven steps to get the most out of your time working with a coach. I recommend having at least two coaching sessions, with an interval of one to four weeks in between.

  1. Decide on a single goal to pursue, preferably with a clear measure (e.g. “to sell 1,000 copies of my book” or “to land my first executive management role in the financial industry”).
  2. Study your coach’s materials before you contact them. (e.g. visit the person’s website and read multiple articles. If they strike you as promising, I suggest buying and reading one of their books next). Take notes as you study their material. If they cannot clearly communicate their abilities, I suggest you move on.  Tip: Search for coaches and consultants on Google by searching for “keyword coach” or “keyword consultant” (e.g. “project management consultant” or “productivity coach”)
  3. Based on steps 1 and 2, decide whether this coach can help you in your current quest. If yes, continue to the next step. Otherwise, return to step two to review another person.
  4. Prepare for your first meeting with the coach. Complete any forms or questionnaires. Make a list of your goals and questions in writing.
  5. Attend the first meeting with your coach. State your goals clearly and ask for specific homework – vague suggestions such as “work harder” need to be refined and made specific (e.g. improve your ability to give feedback to staff).
  6. Work on your homework from the first session. Make notes on what you achieve and what you want to discuss next time.
  7. Attend the second meeting with your coach. Review your first meeting, homework completed and discuss your next challenge.

Learm more about Bruce here.

Wisdom For Your Future Self

We Monday morning quarterback our lives. We look back with wistful wisdom, “if I only knew then what I know now.” No question, experience is a wise teacher.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
~ Confucius

And so, we seek out mentors and the wisdom of those who’ve gone before to accelerate our journey and hopefully side stepping a few boulders rolling our way. Necessary, but not sufficient.

At the end of the day, the journey is ours.

What if we could talk to our future selves with similar, compassionate wisdom? What do we know deep within, that we must tell ourselves today and tomorrow. Consider what the you of tomorrow will wish you had known (or done) today.

“What wisdom would you give the you of 10 years from now?”.

This provocative question, was posed by Alex Barker in our Leadership Dojo interview.

As I replayed the show and listed to my own “advice,” I was struck by the tension between what I would tell my past and future selves, which of course is the cocktail of advice I need most today. Weird in stereo.

You can listen to the podcast here: Play | Download

But that’s my story. Much more interested in yours. Let’s have some Friday fun in the Let’s Grow Leaders Community. Comment on any or all of the following provocative questions.

  • What advice would you give your younger self?
  • What wisdom would you tell the you of 10 years from now?
  • What wisdom is your heart telling you today?

Expert Career Advice From HR Leaders: Carnival Of HR

Every few weeks, HR professionals around the world gather to share their ideas and insights in the HR carnival. It’s LGLs turn to host, so I asked for advice on “Growing Your Career.” After all, if you had a dozen HR folks in a virtual room, what would you ask ? And so I offer you, expert advice on growing your career. Please add yours through the comments.

Becoming a Better Leader

I loved this post by Dan McCarthy about “going under” your managers heads. A fantastic warning for managers of managers about how easy it is to undermine authority, even when your intentions are good. The Perils of Going Under your Manager’s Head

John Hunter provides great advice on Building Your Circle Of Influence. There is a temporal component to your circle of influence. Building that influence is possible by proving the value you can provide. By helping others achieve success you increase the chances they will pay attention to your suggestions in the future. For more posts relating to a career in management improvement see http://management.curiouscatblog.net/category/career/

Alli Polin shares important lessons from her personal experience in Leadership Challenge: Responsibility Without Authority What do you do when you’re given responsibility for a task but never really handed the full reigns to get it done?

Jon Mertz shares Trust Is About Giving and Receiving. In our careers, trust plays a key role. It needs to be evident in how we build and work with teams. It needs to be evident in how we act when given certain responsibilities. Trust provides a solid foundation in which we can flourish in our career paths. Don’t miss his creative video.

Prasad Oommen Kurian shares an edgy post on leadership development. It’s not just about leadership programs. Be sure your leadership development path has depth and breadth. Simplicity @ the Other Side of Complexity

Taking Charge of Your Career

Julie Winkle Giulioni shares great pragmatic advice in,  Career Development Today: Is Your Head Screwed on Straight. Formal, organizationally-orchestrated and condoned career development programs and paths are simply incapable of accommodating the number of people who want to grow on the job. But that’s no reason to sit idly by and stagnate. Change your mindset. Get your head screwed on straight. And start growing today.

Your strengths can hurt you by Robyn McLeod offers important tips on how to prevent your strengths from becoming derailers to your career. In order to grow in your career, you need an honest and consistent loop of feedback on your performance and presence at work. That feedback and your own self-awareness tells you what your strengths are and where your weaknesses show up. There are times when your strength can turn into a weakness

Matt McWilliams gives great advice for when you find yourself in a toxic environment in, “I Can’t Afford to Lose this Job.” He shares how to warm-up your network, fast.

Ben Eubanks shares How Stale Are You? Be sure you don’t go “stale” over time. Here’s how to continuously grow your skills and abilities, even if you don’t change venues. Good stuff.

Mike Henry Sr, founder of The Lead Change Group shares, Kristy Smith’s Post, Is Sharpening Your Skill Set Along the Way the Fine Print to Career Success? Leadership is never handled. There are so many great resources… to grow your career… ENGAGE. Excellent.

Andrea Hrab reminds us of 5 reasons to begin a mentoring relationship in Five Ways Mentors and Mentees Can Grow Their HR Careers Important read.

Leena Thampan provides solid resume advice in her post, 6 Creative Resume Ideas to Find You a Job. Resumes still matter, and Leena’s post can help.

Ian Welsh raises an interesting question in his post How Important is Career Integration for Happy Families?, “Is it better that career is distinct and separate, and that family living and hobbies provide the light relief – the real living?

Practical Career Skills

Need to hone your negotiation Skills? Look no further than Jennifer Miller of the People Equation. Jennifer gleans great career advice from an interesting source: reality TV’s Pawn Stars. See her tips for Six Ways to Be a Better Negotiator.

Whether you’re a recent college graduate or searching for your dream job, Frank Sonnenberg offers practical advice in, Simplify Your Job Search.  My favorite line, “dreams, unlike eggs, don’t hatch from sitting on them.”

Amit Bhagria reminds us to say sincere “thank yous” along the way, One Powerful Word Which Will Help You Grow in Your Career “I would like to kick it off by thanking “Evil HR lady“, Suzanne Lucas, the woman behind one of the most successful blogs on Human Resource Management, who is an inspiration for my blog on HR. I started following her blog in 2009 and since then have been a fan of her writings and her take on the HR world. I am also thankful to Shauna Moerke (better known as HR Minion) who runs the famous HR carnival and every month she sends reminders to us for submitting our best work for the upcoming HR carnival.

Melissa Fairman shares the importance of chosing the right solutions in, But Can You Do It Right? So true, sometimes we look for “new” or “different” when we should be focused on what’s best. Nice read.

Mick Collins shares, Going Social with Workforce Analytics. He encourages frontline leaders to make better use of workforce analytics in their hiring and staffing decisions. As a leader looking to grow your career, it’s important to understand a bit about these tools and how they’re being used. Interesting perspective.

Full Potential Leadership: Convincing Them to Bet on You

Are you truly building your full potential? The choices you make now, will impact what jobs are available down the road. Moving up too quickly in one functional area may limit the diversity of skills you learn, and turn you into a specialist with limited future potential.

As Joanne Cleaver, says “over is the new up.”

When a strong, smart employee comes to me looking for help being promoted, I almost always encourage them to also consider “jumping out of an airplane” and trying a lateral job they appear to know nothing about. I ask them to think more broadly about their full potential.

I ask these sorts of questions:

  • Are you building yourself into a specialist, or building a reputation as a leader with broader capacity?
  • Have you tried moving into a new discipline
  • What are your unrealized gifts?
  • Which of your skills are the most transferable?
  • Should you consider moving sideways to expand your perspective and skills?

And, I am truly grateful for the times in my career bosses and mentors challenged me in that same way and inspired me to work toward my full potential.

I’ve told my story of moves across HR, customer service, marketing, sales.. more than a few times. The truth is, I was able to take leaps across functions because other leaders have taken risks on me. My favorite line from a Sales Senior Vice President years ago, “Karin, don’t tell me you don’t know sales you’ve convinced us all to buy-in to these HR and leadership programs trust me, you can sell.”

So, I tell, my story, and people listen and then the natural question but, “how do I convince someone I am qualified?”

The truth is, I can’t break that down. I don’t exactly remember that part and I don’t have a great answer to this question and time and time again. I get stuck.

Time to Ask a Full Potential Expert

So, suppose you believe it’s important, and are prepared to take a risky move.

How do you convince someone to take a risk on you?

So I reached out to Joanne Cleaver, the author of The Career Lattice: how Lateral Move Strategies Can Grow Careers and Companies asked for some help.

They want to “lattice up”, but no one will give them a chance? What should they do?

Here’s her response:

The best way to make your case to a potential new boss is to show how you have already achieved results with a skill or responsibility analogous to the new challenge. For example, if you are trying to switch from a technology role in which you often interacted with marketing, to a marketing role that is a liaison to technology, show how you have managed a project from the point of view of marketing.

Build a concise case study that shows what you can do. (Simply saying, ‘I can do that!” isn’t enough.” )

Here’s how to build a case study:

•       Problem

•       Process

•       Solution

•       Results

•       One sentence each

Voila! You have shown yourself in action.

Use this case study formula to document your accomplishments as you go. You can use case studies in cover letters and interviews as you get to know potential new bosses.

Career lattices the emerging model for career paths because they are both flexible and sustainable. The skill of managing your career laterally is essential for working Americans of all ages and at all career stages, as I illustrate in The Career Lattice. By continually evolving your skills, abilities and peer network, you’ll qualify for tomorrow’s jobs today.

Great advice.

Have you convinced someone to take a risk on you?